DeAndre Hopkins is tired of losing yards when actually gaining yards. Yet if he gets what he wants, which is credit for balls he doesn’t catch, where would that kind of thinking stop?
Two weekends ago Hopkins had three catches for just 30 yards against the Miami Dolphins. On the surface that would appear to be an exceedingly tough day for one of the NFL’s leading receivers. Yet the truth is: He actually produced seven positive plays for 92 yards, even though his statistics didn’t reflect that.
Because four times Miami cornerback Xavien Howard was flagged for interfering with Hopkins with the ball in the air. Three of those penalties were good for 42 yards, and the fourth would have been worth 20 more but was wiped out by offsetting penalties. So in the record book the Arizona Cardinals’ receiver barely impacted the game. But on the field he was, as he usually is, a game changer.
“As long as the ball moves, that’s all I care about,’’ Hopkins said after that game.
But a second later he made obvious that wasn’t all he cared about when he uttered the word but. But is often a sign that whatever came before it isn’t really how you feel or what you truly meant, as seems true in his case.
“But, I do think the rules should change and receivers should get the counted yards for penalties,’’ Hopkins added.
What about as long as the ball moves that’s all I care about?
On the surface, Hopkins’ suggestion might make sense, but if such a change were to be made an ever more meaningless record book would grow exponentially useless. As it already stands, the rules have been changed so radically in favor of the offense that statistics for quarterbacks and receivers have become impossible measuring sticks when trying to compare today’s performances to that of players of the past. They no longer play the same game Johnny Unitas or Joe Montana played, nor are they playing the same game Mike Ditka or Jerry Rice played.
So if the rules were altered as Hopkins’ suggests it would only further inflate already inflated receiving numbers.
But there is a far larger threat to football history if one takes this to its logical conclusion. If receivers were to start getting “credit’’ for yards gained off pass interference penalties would they not also have to have yardage deducted for offensive pass interference? And would it be just the penalty yardage or all the yardage they picked up as a result of their felonious actions on the play?
And if what Hopkins feels is just were adopted, wouldn’t it have to apply elsewhere as well? If a defensive lineman rushing the passer is held and the opposing team penalized should he get credit for the sack he might have gotten ... but didn’t? Why not? Imagine how many sacks Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor or Bruce Smith might have had if every time an opponent was flagged for holding them counted as a sack?
Wouldn’t a quarterback deserve to get credit for a touchdown pass if his receiver was prevented from catching the ball in the end zone because he was held? Sure he didn’t actually catch the ball, but neither did Hopkins on those pass interference calls against the Dolphins?
On the surface Hopkins’ argument for getting credit he says he doesn’t care about (but obviously does) makes some sense. Why should he be penalized statistically for Howard’s repeated acts of assault and battery on a wideout? The reason is clear: It’s known as The Curse of Unintended Consequences.
If you start handing out free yardage on plays not made due to someone else’s malfeasance, where do you stop? If Hopkins commits offensive pass interference to prevent an interception should the defensive back get credit for the pick he didn’t get to make and the penalty yardage awarded as “return yardage”?
Hopkins’ frustration is understandable, a point punctuated by the fact that a week later he went out against the Buffalo Bills and not only made a game-changing catch on the final “Hail (Kyler) Murray’’ pass into triple coverage but also hauled in six other passes for a total of 127 yards and that game-winning score. Buffalo might have been better served had it taken a page from Xavien Howard’s book and just kept interfering with Hopkins, but one can see the larger problem here if the NFL were to adopt Hopkins’ suggestion.
Change is a good thing. It works for the health of potted plants and grid-locked politicians. But in the case of DeAndre Hopkins’ suggestion that kind of change would open up a Pandora’s Box of ever more meaningless numbers that would detract from the long and storied history of a great game.
Pro football has already been changing for the worse in a number of ways. Changing receivers' numbers to reflect when they were interfered would only serve to take the game one step closer to the “everyone gets a trophy’’ world that now exists in too many areas of our lives.